US: Supreme Court decision could allow gay couples to marry in 11 new states

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A decision by the US Supreme Court today to reject seven pending appeals in lawsuits to allow gays to marry could allow same-sex couples to marry in as many as eleven new states.

The high court today denied seven pending appeals, and came as an unexpected twist in a drawn-out battle for same-sex marriage in the US. The court also rejected calls for a nationwide ruling on same-sex marriage.

The rejection means federal appeals court decision will take effect, legalising same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The decision could also mean that same-sex marriage automatically becomes legal in six other states – Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, because they all fall under the jurisdiction of those courts.

If the ruling plays out as such, it would mean same-sex marriage is legal in 30 US states, as well as the District of Columbia.

Same-sex couples in other states will need to wait for other rulings, and the issue of same-sex marriage is far from resolved. Federal appeals courts in San Francisco and Cincinnati have already heard arguments on the issue, and could rule imminently.

In order for the Supreme Court to take up a case for review, four out of the nine justices must vote to hear it.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released a statement saying: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court leaves in force five favourable marriage rulings reached in three federal appellate courts, ensuring the freedom to marry for millions more Americans around the country. The Court’s letting stand these victories means that gay couples will soon share in the freedom to marry in 30 states, representing 60% of the American people.

“But we are one country, with one Constitution, and the Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places. As waves of freedom to marry litigation continue to surge, we will continue to press the urgency and make the case that America – all of America — is ready for the freedom to marry, and the Supreme Court should finish the job.”